Out, Up, and Down in Chile’s Valparaíso

Chile is truly an amazing country.  Nature, in and of itself, offers a myriad different possibilities from the Atacama Desert and the salt lakes in the north to the fjords and glaciers down in Patagonia.  But Chile’s urban areas offer some incredible sights and experiences.  And Valparaíso may take the cake as its character is quite unique.  No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site!

Valparaíso sits by the sea but it does not have the almost unmanageable scale of Rio.  It is old (founded in 1536) but does not have the colonial feel of cities like Old San Juan or central Lima.  And though it is large (the greater Valparaiso metro area is Chile’s second largest) and a center of portuary activity, it is not an economic center like Santiago is.  It faces the ocean but it is not where tourists go for their summer beach vacation – that would be neighboring Viña del Mar.  However, what makes Valpo, as it is referred to in Chile, so great is the charm it has which is a combination of its setting and that it has not been spoilt by becoming a megalopolis.

Out to sea

Valparaíso is surrounded by hills and exploring the city is not just exploring sea-level Valpo but exploring its hills.  But before going up those hills, the best thing to do is to admire Valpo’s lay of the land by taking a boat tour in the harbor.

Valparaiso, Valpo, boat, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

The boat taking us to cruise the harbor

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Sea lion enjoying the summer day

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Looking back at the town and hills of Valpo (notice a funicular in the center of the photo)

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, National Congress

National Congress (on the left) sits in Valparaiso, not Santiago, the actual capital of Chile

Valparaiso, Valpo, port, ship, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View across the harbor back towards the center of the city

Up the hills

Valpo is quite famous for the funiculars (or ascensores) that help move people up and down its famous hills.  The oldest funicular was built in 1883 and it is still in service.  Many of these funiculars are an experience onto themselves with very unique stories and some are considered national monuments.

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One of Valparaiso’s famous funiculars – we didn’t take this one

When we went, we were advised by some locals to keep an eye out as we went up to the hills as not all areas above are equally safe for people who look like tourists.  We took the advice and went up making sure we were aware of our surroundings.

Valparaiso, stairs, funicular, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

For the sake of the experience, we climbed the stairs…

Valparaiso, Valpo,funicular, cat, rail, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

… and this cat had a similar, if different, approach to going up.

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A house perched on one of the hills looks mighty precarious to me… one lil tremor and…

We were rewarded not only with views of the city and sea below, but also by some neat architecture in the hill we visited.

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View from one of Valpo’s hills towards some of the other hills (spot the funicular on this pic!)

Valparaiso, Valpo, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

View from one of Valpo’s hills towards the harbor

Valparaiso, Valpo, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

House up in one of the hills

Valparaiso, Valpo, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Another great sample of the neat architecture around

And then back at sea level

All this being said and done, I just enjoyed walking aimlessly through the city.  Here are some of the images from our exploring “sea-level” Valpo.

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Charming “booth” for a pay phone

Valparaiso, Valpo, power cables, street scene, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A mess of utility cables… who knows how many legally set up!

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, architecture, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

A side street that was not as interesting (they deserve to show up on a website too!)

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, bus, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Street scene

Valparaiso, Valpo, street scene, Chile, travel, tourism, charm, Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Street scene

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Navy Building in Plaza Sotomayor

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Monument to the Heroes of Iquique (war memorial) in Plaza Sotomayor

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Dog laying in the middle of the street (right below where the bus shows)

My favorite souvenir from my year in Chile is a wood carving depicting one of the stairs and funiculars of this charming city.  A great reminder in my every day of this unique town!

Comments

  1. Great shots. Funny, I saw a similar monstrosity utilty pole in Tel Aviv that looked equally scary. The funicular looks quite unique. Not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. Great pics

  2. I would love to visit Chile one day – loved these photos, Raul!
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted..The Luxury Travel Blog Network – October 2013 EditionMy Profile

  3. Oh… I’ve climbed stairs “just for the sake of the experience”. It was in Genoa with my daughter… we laughed so hard we almost fell down the stairs. but the view and the memory were well worth it.

  4. That cat! and those stairs! too funny! looks like a very cool place- i see the need for the funiculars! Great views from the top!
    lola dimarco recently posted..Hotel Le Germain, #Montreal – by @JETSETextra @TheWrldWanderer & @loladimarcoMy Profile

  5. Ohhh, I loved Valparaiso! But, I had barely any time there and it was winter and overcast. Still I fell in love and this is reminding me to go back and spend more time there. I’d love to see it in the summer. Also, funiculars scare me to death!!!
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted..Map Nails.My Profile

  6. Becoming familiar with a city from the water is a great idea, an orientation of sorts. I really like your architecture photos. The colonial style is always interesting to me. Some beautiful buildings in Valpo!
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Could we be the very first #GwOGuestTester Family?My Profile

  7. What a beautiful city and a great set of photos. Some of those inclines are quite precarious. I am not sure I would want to ride up those funiculars. I think I will leave that track to the cats.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..That time at the Chicago Marathon photo essayMy Profile

  8. Cindy Johnson says:

    Raul, I was really pleased to read your article about Valparaiso and especially enjoyed the photographs. I was in that lovely city decades ago for the Presidential inauguration in 1988. I was traveling with a US official delegation and so we saw very little of the city, just a quick in and out trip, but what I did see was pretty cool. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I almost visited Chile when I was in Argentina, but probably would have gone only to Santiago anyway. I need to visit the country and when I do, Valparaiso will be on the itinerary. I mean, it has hills, right? LOVE that! Great shots, and that dog brings memories of Ecuador – dogs were everywhere! :)
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo(s) of the Week: Calle la Ronda in QuitoMy Profile

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